June 19, 2009

Parking Weirdness Day

From Aces

I like posting to my blog best when something weird or stupid is happening; I like to tell you about out-of the ordinary things. Thursday was a little weird, because it had a theme of "parking."

First off, we met friends in New Bedford for tacos and conversation. Folks from the office brought along some visiting academics and we talked about math education and whether tapping an unopened soda can will stop the thing from exploding on you (see below).

We'd parked in the pay lot behind the Seaman's Bethel. For some reason I only thought we'd be there for an hour, so I paid only a dollar. Oops. I lost track of time, never came back out to pay for another pass and we ended up with a ticket for $10. ironically, the City of New Bedford already owes me $2 from the last time I parked there and paid them $5 when I only needed to park for 3 hours; the machine doesn't give change, so they gave me an IOU. So, I owe them $8. At least, I assume they'll see it that way when I go in to pay the fine. Maggie has convinced me not to charge them interest on the $2 of mine they've been holding on to.

So, kind of a bummer.

Later, we headed up to the Providence Place Mall so Maggie could get some frozen yogurt before her exam. Unscientific tests show that she does better on an exam when she has "froyo" for dinner. After we are, we parted ways and the girls and I returned to our car.

When we got there, I saw there was a note on my windshield. I've scanned it so you could see it (the image is slightly edited, just leaving the relevant details). It's a message from a helpful parking attendant trying to tell me that I shouldn't make it obvious that I own a GPS device. Apparently, he or she is telling me that I am in danger of having my car broken into if the mount for my GPS is visible in the car. I'm assuming that they know from experience that this is something that puts my car at risk. It seems like an odd little note; I've never gotten one of these before. But it seems as though its heart is in the right place.

Aaaaanyhow. thanks for the warning. I will be more careful in the future. The "S - A - 40" is a bit mysterious. Dunno what the deal is there. I've edited out my license plate number, but that was included as well.

So, that's the second thing I'd found on my windshield in the course of the day. Better than the parking "ticket." The day got slightly weirder after that.

As we were leaving the parking garage, I noticed there were 3 lanes open at the exit. If you've never been to the Providence Place Mall, these are automated toll lanes. You pay for your parking before you leave the mall, then you insert your card at the toll station which verifies that you have paid. The arm of the gate lifts and you drive out.

For anything under 3 hours, the parking cost is a cheap-as-Hell $1. It goes up after that, but nothing like the $31 you can easily spend at a garage near Faneuil Hall, Boston for a few short hours.

As we approached the three empty lanes, I noticed cars behind me. I pulled into the middle toll lane and expected the other cars to fan out to fill all three lanes, but they lazily remained in a parade behind me as if they didn't know the other lanes were open, or didn't care. I mentioned it to the girls and we found the inefficiency of it all a bit annoying. Especially because the truck directly behind me was right on my rear bumper.

I gave the toll robot my ticket, the gate opened and I rolled through. As I rolled forward, the pickup behind me stayed right on my bumper. She was trying to get through the booth without paying -- "tailgating" through the booth! Unlucky for her, I was driving too slowly. The gate gently came down on her truck. The exit was sharply to the left, and she'd expected me to roll quickly through, oblivious, and then cut left out of her way; she would have passed me on the right, zipping around me unsafely and crossing into other exit lanes.

Changing plans, she darted slightly to her left, I turned my car left, toward the exit. There was no room for her to pass there, and now she was practically up against the door of my car with the grill of her truck. I could look her in the face this way and said to her "What the heck are you trying to do?" She looked back at me with an expression that said "I need to get the frak out of this parking garage, and fast!" I think she actually said something, which was probably "Go!"

I don't take kindly to being tailgated, but I am not the Mall Parking Garage Police. I just shook my head and pulled forward, at which point she zipped around behind me and then to my right, cutting off another exiting vehicle. I took a left out the exit and she sped away to the right.

The girls were quite amused by the whole incident, and we talked about cons, theft and stealing all the way home.

At one time, there were human attendants at those booths. I don't know why they switched to the current system, but I strongly suspect it has something to do with corruption and the large number of low denomination bills that would change hands at the booth. And how many of those bills might go missing. Having robot tool operators means there is nobody there to yell and scream when someone exploits the system.

Now that I've witnessed one way to cheat the Mall Parking Lot out of a dollar, it certainly doesn't seem worth it to me. Maybe she had parked there for a year or so and owed something like a grand.


On the subject of soda cans, tapping the top does little to prevent an explosion. But some people say that tapping the sides does make a huge difference. Why? Shaking a can causes some of the dissolved carbon dioxide to come out of solution. It forms bubbles. the bobble cling to the sides of the can. If you open the can, those bubbles expand rapidly and fly upward, forcing anything above them out of the can.

However, if you can dislodge the bubbles from the sides of the can, they float to the top. Without any soda above them, they expand relatively harmlessly as the can is opened.

I plan to try this. I hear it doesn't work with diet soda, though, so be careful with diet. Something about the bubbles being more likely to stay clinging to the sides.

Posted by James at June 19, 2009 1:55 AM
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I call BS on the can tapping thing but you let me know how that works out for you. Never had a can explode on me that hadn't been dropped just prior to opening and even then opening slowly works just fine. If the can is well shaken the gasses are likely coming out of the solution not clinging to the sides.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at June 19, 2009 8:04 AM

DH taps the TOP of cans all the time - and he'll deliberately show off by shaking it up first, then tapping it and opening it. Never so much as a bubble-over.

I rarely have trouble with cans; my problem is the sneaky 2 liter bottles. I swear, they have a conspiracy going to get me to lower my guard and forget that I need to slow down and not open too fast. As soon as I forget this, one will inevitably be shaken too much and I'll end up spraying drink all over the place.

Posted by: Melanie at June 19, 2009 8:54 AM

Hmmm.. good point. I have much more trouble with 1 L tonic and club soda bottles tahn I do with cans. This makes me even more suspicious of the tapping the CO2 off the sides theory because I know that oftenwhen these things explode on me there are not lots of little bubbles clinging to the sides. Slowly opening the bottle and avoiding the explosive decompression is the only thing that can save you in the bottle case same thing works in cans. If you open just enough to let some gas out slowly it won't explode.

If the tapping theory works with cans it should work with bottles, with the added advantage that you will be able to see what you are doing. So an experiment looking at both would be best.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at June 19, 2009 9:14 AM

I've never done this experiment myself. I suspect that people believe tapping the top of the can works because they're most often opening a very cold can of soda, which is much less likely to foam over.

I would challenge top-tappers to shake a warm soda and try that.

Of course, I'm going to have to test this out for myself, tapping the top and sides.

Snopes tested top-tapping and found that it did not prevent foam overs.

Posted by: James at June 19, 2009 9:57 AM

That's a nice gesture by the PPM. My car has been broken into twice in the past six months, probably by high school kids looking for GPS units.

Posted by: Mike at June 19, 2009 10:14 AM

"I'm assuming that they know from experience that this is something that puts my car at risk."

Yes. We received numerous warnings about it at my old job, from building security and from local police. It's also been mentioned in local news (TV and print) multiple times over the last few years. GPS units are truly "hot."

I would guess that most people just shove the GPS into the glove compartment rather than take it with them; if the stand is still there, they might expect the GPS to be nearby too.

HOWEVER, if I'm a person who's looking for GPSs and other valuables, I'll really appreciate the parking attendants who leave notes on the windshields of the most promising vehicles. That saves me the trouble of having to look through the windows of every car.

Posted by: Julie at June 19, 2009 11:00 AM

One day last year, I pulled into the MBTA parking lot at Alewife and an MBTA cop was standing next to the ticket machine, handing out pamphlets that warned against leaving items like iPods, sat radios, and GPS in view, and I believe the GPS arm was included in the list (it's a beacon to thieves that the item might still be in the car, so it's worth a broken window to check).

As for the "tailgating," I have experienced something similar, also involving the MBTA. Ever since they installed the fancy and expensive sliding glass gates, I've seen people "tailgating" so as not to pay. Since not all stops have manned gates, it's easy and I see this happen frequently, which pisses me off. My pass costs me $210/month, so I'm angry when some douchebag slips in for free.

One day, I had a feeling the two girls walzing behind me were going to try to slip in w/o paying, so I paid and walked through, turned around immediately, saw her starting to sneak, held up my umbrella to block her, and as the gate closed--barring her free entry--I said "You have to PAY."

My, that was satisfying. Still, it's a really irritating and costly problem.

Posted by: Patti M. at June 19, 2009 12:30 PM

It seems to me that if they can pay someone to walk around and put those notes on people's windshields, they could pay someone to staff the booth and prevent cheaters from sneaking out without paying. And Julie brings up a good point: What better way for thieves to quickly find cars with valuables inside than to flag their windshields with notes?

Posted by: Karen at June 19, 2009 1:08 PM

Julie is one smart cookie!

Posted by: James at June 19, 2009 4:18 PM

It seems to me that if they can pay someone to walk around and put those notes on people's windshields, they could pay someone to staff the booth and prevent cheaters from sneaking out without paying.

What she said.

Posted by: Patti M. at June 19, 2009 5:49 PM

Ah, but have you put two and three together? Seems to me that I know why pickup-truck-woman had to dash out of the car park tout de suite, with the half dozen or so GPS systems she'd snagged out of people's glove compartments.

(Does anyone actually put gloves in them any more?)

Posted by: Barry Leiba at June 19, 2009 7:11 PM

Actually, you're right! It all makes sense now!

Posted by: James at June 19, 2009 8:47 PM

My "glove compartment" is cavernous. I could put a body, with or without gloves, in mine.

Posted by: Patti M. at June 20, 2009 9:29 AM

Mmmmm. Coookie.

Posted by: Julie at June 20, 2009 2:44 PM

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